Thursday, November 05, 2009

Nepal 2009: thangka painting at tsering art school

this is tsering art school where i learned thangka painting for 2 weeks in kathmandu. the whole course is a year program. there is a japanese girl who was taking her final year exam when i arrived. the exam is to complete a thangka within 45 days. i really admire her dedication to the art and the tibetan culture. she speaks fluent tibetan. i am going to learn the language too. there is just something about tibet i feel so strongly for. and this trip is all about being with the tibetans and their culture. this is my lovely and talented teacher, yangzom. she is herself a graduate from the school. she teaches us the junior students which comprises of monks, nuns, lay persons and us foreigners. together with me, there are 2 other brazilian girls and a dutch girl. all of us are at different levels, some a few months, some a few days but she gave us all individual attention, coaching with us the kind of patience i have never experienced before.
we would go to her for comments and when she is free, she would be painting her thangka alongside us. it was a wonderful relaxed learning atmosphere, always filled with laughter but also a certain degree of seriousness.
yes it is a school and it has rules. i like no.2 best. haha..
and this is dearest marieke from the netherlands, a kindred spirit i am blessed to have on my journey. we met in the art school, she arrived a few days after me. we connected immediately and start to spend a lot of time together sharing, singing, dancing our 'dakini' dance and talking our 'daka' talk. haha... she is also very much into buddhism.
school starts at 8am with morning chants with all the students, monks nuns everyone. this usually last for 30 mins followed by meditation. its a great way to start the day. sometimes the principal would give a rather long disciplinary speech. haha.. i love watching the monks behind playing with each other, tickling the one sitted in front, or throwing bits of paper around as the principal continues his speech in a gentle , soft and monotonous tone. i love being in the school environment again.. even though i dun understand a thing. everything is conducted in tibetan.
in the morning, we are taught drawing. we practise on chalk powdered slabs to reduce the waste of paper. this is where we clean away the old drawings. the students are so friendly and helpful, there is always someone offering to wipe my slab. i only did the whole process once in my 2 weeks class there. i am lucky. : )
after the chalk is wiped off, the next step is to apply a layer of wax onto the slab. and then leave it under the sun to dry for a bit.
and then it is ready to be dusted with a layer of chalk powder and then i can start to do one more round of loma leaves. haha... i was taught one leaf for 2 days. drawing the same leaf over and over again, to perfect it. i highly recommend thangka painting for anyone who wants to train her patience! haha..
on the second week, i was taught the timpa (cloud in tibetan). it is difficult, every curve is different. it trained me to look into details. everytime i think i perfected it, i would show it to my teacher, and then she would pick up the littlest of the details and tell me 'this curve needs to be fatter, this one less fat, that one too thin...' in her limited english. but the minute she points them out, i am like 'shit why didnt i notice that!?!' haha very good training to be attentive, to be in the present, to be one with whatever you are doing at that moment. once your heart is not with your hand, it will show in the drawing. amazing experience.
my classmates. she is the youngest in class, 12 years old. everytime the teacher walks out of the class, they will start talking and singing and making jokes. oh i miss them already. one time, i pretended to be angry and said 'shh!!!' then all of them became quiet, and then marieke and i burst out laughing. and the whole class started laughing. it was so fun! even though few of them speak english, we had so much fun. and one day, one of the guys started singing 'you're beautiful....' by james blunt. haha..usually they sing tibetan or hindi songs. i guess he is trying to impress us. haha.. so sweet. i guess we are amused by them and vice versa. oh how i miss being in class with them.
yeah lunch time! we have a 2 hr lunch break at 11:30am. we love the nepalese thali at garden kitchen. cheap and good!
after lunch in the afternoon, we are taught colouring. very easy time to fall asleep.. haha. this is the loma leaf. both sides have to be equal and symmetrical including the space and gaps inside the leaf. not easy at all even though on the surface, it looks like a simple leaf.
i love painting the pema (lotus). i have 'very good' from tenzin, head of teachers and 'good' from my teacher. yeah!!!
schools ends at 4:30pm. usually we would do kora (circumulation of a sacred site) round the boudha stupa, just a stone throw away, with the many tibetans every evening.
then followed by 'aloo' and milk tea at a local cafe, which my friend, makino brought me to. he is japanese but studied tibetan buddhism in nepal for 8 years and speak fluent tibetan. i will introduce him in the next blog.

i think i want to do my own fried 'aloo' potato and milk tea later. they actually go well together. oh i miss this place too, all the tibetans would be there after doing their kora. its a close community and everyone knows everyone. so easy to know people here. i love it..
bumped into my classmates again. you know the funny thing is, my name in tibetan actually means 'who are you?' (khye rang su yin pey?) so its easy for them to remember. i always hear 'suyin suyin' in class, they like to call my name and then just laugh. one monk told me, its the funniest in the morning assembly attendance, when my name is called out, it sounds like 'who are you?' and then i would answer 'rey' meaning 'yes i am here'. no wonder they always laugh when my name is called. initially i thought it was my pronounciation they were laughing at.
i am lucky. dinner is always ready somewhere for me if i dun feel like eating the guest house food. this night, tashi (tenzin's friend) cooked for me. it was yummy! he is a great cook. i like the way they live, like a big family. when they cook dinner, they cook a lot, and then friends or friends' friends could just come over and eat. we were later joined by his 2 other friends. very nice. community living.
yum yum bhutanese food. best meal i had in my trip. home cooked food always taste so good. the monks like bhutanese food, lots of chilli and cheese. i tried making a vegetable stew with feta cheese last night. not too bad i have to say. taste quite like tashi's cooking except that it isnt spicy becos i didnt add any green chilli.
on my last night, dinner was prepared for me again. i asked marieke along. oh we feel like princesses, look at our little teacups tenzin laid out for us. haha.. oh i am missing marieke so much, we had a great time together, singing in the cabs (i pity those nepalese drivers who have to put up with us haha). we went shopping together and bought the same long skirts. did our crazy 'daikini' dance and our crazy 'daka' talk. we stayed in the same guesthouse. it was an unforgettable time! she still has a month more in nepal.
ok stay tuned for more adventures from the trip! you know girls i forgot to take photos of the craziest thing i did in nepal. me on tenzin's bike! with no helmut riding across the crazy traffic in kathmandu. i was very bold. we even went to pharping, which is an hours ride up to the mountains along the winding narrow road.. mm.. i dun dare to look off the edge of the road. haha.. but it was all good fun. he is very careful. oh i saved a lot on taxi and meals this trip and made a lot of good friends. i am happy!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay. u have effectively made my heart itch.

how much does this trip cost?

November 06, 2009 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your trip looks awesome! the people you meet and the sights you take in.. everything looks great honestly. looking forward to seeing more pictures and hearing more stories :)

sock khim

November 06, 2009 11:23 PM  

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